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Film / The Immigrant

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The Immigrant is a 1917 short film by Charlie Chaplin. The film opens with Chaplin's Tramp as an immigrant on a ship sailing to New York. He strikes up an acquaintance with a pretty girl (played by his regular female lead, Edna Purviance) who is on the voyage with her sick mother. The Tramp tries to slip the girl a little money but is mistaken for a pickpocket. The girl clears his name and they part on good terms.

Later, after arriving in New York, the Tramp finds a coin and decides to splurge on a decent meal. Unfortunately for him the coin falls out of a hole in his pocket. Hilarity Ensues as the Tramp tries to obtain another coin and pay for a meal. While trying to avoid the intimidating waiter he meets the girl he met on the boat. The Tramp is about to take a beatdown from the waiter when he steals a tip and uses that to pay for his meal. After leaving the restaurant the Tramp and the girl go off to get married.


Outtakes included in the documentary series Unknown Chaplin reveal that Chaplin began with the café scene, improvising and evolving the humor until he was satisfied with it, and then worked backward, adding the immigration plot in the first reel, to explain where the Tramp and the girl had come from.

Not to be confused with the 2013 film of the same name, starring Marion Cotillard and Joaquin Phoenix.

Inducted into the National Film Registry with the class of 1998. The film can be seen here.



  • Counterfeit Cash: It turns out that the coin Chaplin finds in the restaurant is a fake.
  • Deus ex Machina: The artist who pops up out of nowhere and gives Charlie and Edna jobs.
  • Fake-Out Opening: The Tramp is shown bent over the side of the boat, apparently violently ill. It turns out he's catching a fish.
  • Funny Background Event: More a foreground example - when Charlie recognizes Edna at the next table, he dumps a knife-load of beans into his coffee cup without realizing.
  • Happy Ending: A rare one for Chaplin, who usually went with No Ending or Bittersweet Ending.
  • An Immigrant's Tale: Yup. The scene where the immigrants are greeted by the Statue of Liberty, only to be roped off by immigration officers, is rather pointed. The documentary Unknown Chaplin revealed that Chaplin's original idea was the business about being unable to pay a restaurant bill, and the part about being an immigrant was his way of establishing why the Tramp is broke.
  • Literal Ass-Kicking: Maybe Chaplin's favorite gag.
  • No Name Given: As was customary for Charlie Chaplin films.
  • Oh, Crap!: Charlie's reaction upon seeing the restaurant bouncer beat up someone who can't pay his bill and then discovering he's lost his own money to pay through a hole in his pocket.
  • Romantic Rain: The movie ends with Charlie and Edna kissing outside in the pouring rain, and then entering the "Marriage Licenses" office.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Several passengers are throwing up over the side of the boat. The Fake-Out Opening makes it appear that Charlie is barfing too, but he's just catching a fish.